As most of you know, I was determined to get through Christmas this year (the first one after the sudden departure of my husband, and the first one my son had to miss) mostly by ignoring the holiday. I didn't unpack the tree, nor the ornaments. I made plans to go to my sister's house in another state for the actual day. I avoided heavily decorated streets. I shunned Christmas music whenever possible. I thought I had done a pretty good job of protecting myself from any onslaught of excess emotion brought on by my first Christmas alone.
So, when a retirement party for one of my colleagues came around, I thought it would pretty much be just a department meeting on steroids. No problem. I dressed up appropriately and went to the house of another colleague, ready to have a pleasant time. It didn't even cross my mind that I would have any trouble.
I was wrong. Christmas decorations were all over. Pictures of a happy, intact family lined the walls. My colleagues brought their significant others. The rooms of the house were alive with laughter and conversation. Rich foods flowed out of the kitchen. Everyone was kind and considerate, giving me hugs and smiles from across the room. This kindness and compassion nearly put me under, because, as pure as it may have been, I saw it tinged in pity. I looked at the Christmas tree, covered with hundreds of busy ornaments, mirroring my own cluttered emotions. I was overwhelmed, but I held it together fairly well, even when my beloved retiring colleague sat next to his long-time wife and thanked her for all her support.
Then, I gathered my things, smiled and laughed as I walked out the door, thanking my hosts and exclaiming about what a good time I had. I walked to my car.
Then, I lost it completely. Yes. A complete meltdown. I had not cried like that for months. Emotions rushed over me, swept me away and I as suddenly just as sad and confused as the day HOB left me.
So much for progress.
I had planned on going to a friend's birthday party the next day. I went home, and quickly sent my apologies. No more parties for me.
The next day, a friend I had not seen in years came over for lunch out and a walk afterwards. What I had expected to be a short walk and talk, turned into a long walk, a long talk. We meandered the streets of the town, and the talk flowed freely. Walking in the warm air of a California December, I felt a peacefulness I had not felt for a long time. It was getting near dark and we must have already walked at least five miles, but I suddenly knew what I wanted to do. For some reason, I felt safe to do it.
I, the girl who was avoiding Christmas at all costs, guided my friend toward the street in our town that is known as Candy Cane Lane. The houses there go all out, decorate to the hilt, Christmas music blares from some of the front yards. The street is always full of people in a holiday mood, out for fun. We walked side by side down the street and I wasn't overwhelmed, or melancholy, or aching. I was just simply happy. The complications of my life fell away for a few minutes and I strolled down the street with my friend and enjoyed the lights and the sounds.
I thought about big parties and how we flock to them, prepared to have a good time and most of the time we do. But on this night, I understood that there are some times in life when the best party of all is a party of two. It was simple. It was uncomplicated. There was no pretense or need be anything but authentic.
So, yesterday was my birthday. I had a great day until I had to go to two divorce-related meetings. I came out of them upset, confused, and generally distraught. I had planned on getting together with a group of people, but I called one of my best friends and asked her if we could go out to dinner, just the two of us. She urged me to call more people. She insisted she could gather more friends, but I remembered that day in December and how the best parties are sometimes made up of just two good friends.
We dined, we laughed, we talked, I cried (a little) and we welcomed in this new year of my life.
It was just what I wanted.
It as just what I needed.
It was a great birthday party, indeed.